Finally got my driver's license
Here's how it works in The Netherlands: there are a fairly large number of private (i.e. non-government) companies that provide driving instructions. People 18 and over are free to choose any of those and make their own arrangements for any number of lessons they seem fit, on a schedule of their own choosing.
Candidates have to pass a theoretical, multiple choice examination, by which they obtain a license, valid for one year, to take the practical exam. This examination is done with a government-regulated organisation called CBR. One applies for an exam and passing it gets one the paperwork one can exchange for an actual driver's license, at one's local town hall.
It is often said that CBR staff are mostly ex-Foreign Legion commanders who changed career because they were tired of being nice to people all day. With the exception of one of the ones I met, I can confirm this suspicion.
After not passing this exam four times, one is automatically referred to the BNOR, which take the same exam, but in a less intimidating surrounding and with considerably more attention to the mental state of the candidate---the assumption is that once someone has not passed the same exam four times (and at some EUR160 a time, these are not usually taken too lightly) nerves must play a big part.
I know all this from first hand experience, because nerves got the better of me four times in a row. I can't say I would completely discount poor judgement by the first (of two) driving school I dealt with, but in the end I was the one doing the driving; nobody else.
I started driving lessons when my wife was pregnant about a month; our daughter is a almost nine months old now. The intention was to do a quick track, by which I was supposed to have it all wrapped up inside of two months. This has been a somewhat burdensome experience.
Until today, that is: I took the exam with the BNOR and I passed it. No big deal for the thousands of people who do this every year, most even about a decade earlier in their life, but a very big deal for me.
Other than the fact that repeated failure in performing a task that 8 million people in this country alone have managed to complete is not very good for one's self esteem, it means that in our family, my wife isn't the only one anymore allowed to drive. That means we will be much more able to fairly share such mundane tasks as doing the shopping. Oh, and it means that I can take on business that is not conveniently located right next to train stations.
Party time -- cake's on me.